The Funny Names of At

The “at sign” – often called “at symbol” or just “at” – is sometimes called an “atpersand” by pedants or, very rarely, a “strudel”. People who actually care about such things often call it the “commercial at”, from its use in commerce and accounting. This is because the symbol was used to mean “at a rate of”, such as “client says to sell 5,000 bushels of corn @ $6/bushel”.

At Sign

Once you get away from English, things start to get interesting.

In Swedish, the symbol is called “snabel-a”, which means “elephant trunk-a”. Less commonly it’s called a “kanelbulle”, which means “cinnamon bun”. Which is just about the cutest thing ever! I think I’ll start calling them “cinnamon buns” myself! Disappointingly, Sweden’s IT people generally just call it “at” for brevity’s sake.

In French it’s called “arobase”, which comes from “a rond bas” (literally “lowercase round a”), a typographical term. In Quebec French, it’s often called a “commercial”, from its original use in commerce in English-speaking Canada and the United States. Although the “official” term in Quebec French is “arobas”, you often hear TV announcers and commercials use the Metropolitan French term.

Other languages seem to enjoy naming the symbol after animals. In Dutch (and related languages, like Afrikaans) it’s called a “apenstaartje”, which means “monkey tail”. Polish calls it a “malpa”, which means “monkey”. The Greeks call it a “papaki”, which means “duckling”, because the symbol is said to resemble a cartoon duck. In Finnish, the symbol seems to resemble cats: “kissanhäntä” (cat’s tail”) and “miukumauku” (“meow-meow”). And the Russians call it a “sobaka”, which means “dog”. And in Welsh it’s often called a malwen or malwoden, or “snail”.

But the relentless expansion of the English Empire continues. In Thailand, India, Latvia, Indonesia, Georgia (the country), Lithuania, Germany, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia, Hong Kong and Macau and the Irish-speaking parts of Ireland it’s just called “at”, or some local variation, like “et” or “ett” or “ag”.

There’s still room for fun, though: in Greenlandic and Inuit, the sign is called “aajusaq” which means “something that looks like an A”.